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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bob Arum: Stadiums Are Future of Boxing

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2/25/2010 3:57 PM ET By Lem Satterfield

Top Rank CEO, Bob Arum, had just completed a dizzying, day of meetings with officials from HBO and Yankees Stadium regarding WBA junior middleweight (154 pounds) champion, Yuri Foreman's June 5 defense of his title against Puerto Rican former world champion, Miguel Cotto.

And the 78-year-old promoter told FanHouse on Thursday that he still has a ways to go.

"I met with the Yankees for three hours on Tuesday, and then, for two hours with HBO on Tuesday as well," said Arum, who met with Yankees' Chief Operating Officer, Lonn Trost, and, HBO sports' top officials, Ross Greenburg, and, Kerry Davis.

Arum said that he is close to completing the deal for Foreman (28-0, eight knockouts), a soon-to-be rabbi, to defend his crown against Cotto (34-2, 27 knockouts), a former two-time welterweight (147 pounds) and one-time junior welterweight (140 pounds) champion.

Arum already has secured the March 13 WBO welterweight (147 pounds) clash between seven-division king, Manny Pacquiao (50-3-2, 38 KOs) and Joshua Clottey (35-3, KOs) at Dallas Cowboys' Stadium in Arlington, Tex.

Arum said that outdoor bouts such as Foreman-Cotto, and, Pacquiao-Clottey, are the future of boxing.

"Boxing is on a crest. Boxing isn't a dying sport. It's a big-time sport. And putting the event in big stadia, like Cowboys' Stadium, like Yankees Stadium, like the new Meadowlands' stadium proves that point," said Arum. "Because when you put your product in venues like that, what you're saying to the world -- and you're telling them the truth -- is that boxing is a big-time sport that can hold its own and surpass any other sport."

"How do we know that?" asked Arum, who promoted the last boxing match at the old Yankees Stadium in 1976, when Muhammad Ali earned a 15-round decision over Ken Norton against the backdrop of a police strike. "Because we know what's happening in Mexico, where boxing is even getting ratings higher than soccer and, certainly, better than any other sport and any other event going on regularly on televison on a Saturday night.

"We know it from Germany, when arenas are constantly sold out, and the ratings are through the roof. We know it from England, because of what's happening there. We know it from the Philippines and Japan. We don't yet know it in the United States," said Arum.

"But I'm telling you, it's like the sleeping giant that is there," said Arum. "Boxing in the United States will take its place the same way it's doing in the rest of the world as a big time, big, big sport. And putting these events in these stadia will prove that and demonstrate that."

That's why Arum is so tireless in his efforts. Take, for example, Foreman-Cotto.

When a bar mitzvah party initially threatened the status of Foreman-Cotto, accomodations were worked out with the family of the boy, Scott Ballan, to hold the party and the fight on the same night for the first time in the stadium's history.

About 150 guests for the bar mitzvah party for the son of Yankees' lead bond lawyer, Jon Ballan, will be given tickets that will allow them to spend the evening celebrating the boy as well as watching Foreman-Cotto.

The theme goes hand-in-hand with one of the main characters in the dramatic fight, as Forman is studying to be a rabbi along with being the first Israeli to win a professional boxing title. Foreman accomplished that feat with November's 12-round unanimous decision over Puerto Rico's Daniel Santos.

Arum expects to have a great deal of success with Foreman-Cotto, the latter of whom has been a big draw at Madison Square Garden due to the large, Puerto Rican population in the area.

Cotto is 6-0 at Madison Square Garden, where he has decisioned Clottey, Shane Mosley, Paulie Malignaggi, and knocked out Zab Judah.

Arum said that Cowboys' owner, Jerry Jones, made the first move concerning an outdoor bout at that venue -- this, eventually leading to his $25 million bid to host Mayweather-Pacquiao.

"Back when we were involved with the [Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao] fight, [stadium owner] Jerry Jones called me at home and said, 'Bob, we want that fight in Cowboys' Stadium,'" said Arum.

"But I always had in my mind that Cowboys' stadium would be a great, great venue for the fight from all that I had read and seen," said Arum. "So when the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight fell out, and we made Manny with Joshua Clottey, the first call I made was to Jerry, and he invited me to come and watch a game there."

Arum and his Top Rank president, Todd duBoef, watched the Cowboys defeat the Eagles, 34-14, in a January, first- round, playoff game from Jones' luxurious box suite.

"I was there at the game that night," said Arum. "The next day, we got together and we made a deal."

Pacquiao-Clottey represents the first boxing match to be held at the $1.2 billion Cowboys' Stadium, whose domed facility seats 80,000, but is expandable enough so that it can hold up to 111,000.

Arum said that even though the Cowboys' Stadium has been set up to seat 45,000, it is likely to expand, at Jones' behest, due to the fact that the Pacquiao-Clottey fight already is on pace to be sold out.

"Right now we're on target to sell the 45,000 seats and we'll be very happy doing that. I know that yesterday [Wednesday,] we sold about 350 tickets, and today, [Thursday] we're on course to do that again," said Arum, of a matchup that will be televised on HBO pay per view.

"I would think that probably by the time that the fighters get into town, we will have sold well over 40,000 tickets, and the last week that we will have 3,000 or 4,000 tickets to go, and then, it would be up to Jerry if he wanted to expand it," said Arum. "If we're on track, the week of the fight, to have 3,000 to 4,000 tickets left, then I think we can begin looking toward [stadium expansion.]"

Cowboys' Stadium also has a retractable ceiling that protects against rain, and boasts over 3,000 Sony LCD displays throughout the luxury suites, concourses, concession areas and more.

The setup allows fans the ability to watch the action beyond just the field, as, all, if not most, of the displays will be operating on fight night, according to Jones.

"The technical aspect is going to be an amazing thing, because I built the stadium like a stage. So we have such flexibility that we can consider our coverage in many different ways. We have such flexibility from the sidelines in creating the proximity to the fighters because of what we have here," said Jones, during a Jan. 10 interview with FanHouse.

"We have three million square feet in this building, but if you were here, you would be impressed by how intimate we can make these areas of the stadium relative to the field," said Jones. "We're going to be able to have, I think, the sort of intimacy and proximity to these fighters from a technical and perceived relationship, because of the way we've got all of our screens located to present the fighters that alone will create a first, in my mind, for boxing and the people who are accustomed to watching it."

Jones said that he was particularly proud of the stadium's major feature, a monstrous high-definition screen known as "Jerry-Tron," which is believed to be the largest in the world.

"We think that we have a chance with our huge center-hung screen, to drop that down if we want to within 25 feet of the fighters. And that means that every bead of sweat and every movement that goes on in that competition is going to be reflected to the people who are in this venue," said Jones. "I think that's going to be an unparalleled experience for the people here -- as well as for myself -- as we're watching two of the greatest fighters of their caliber."

Arum also feels that the "Jerry-Tron may be the difference in the overall experience.

"As you will see, on March 13, there is no stadium or arena in the entire world like Cowboys' Stadium. It's an achetecural marvel, with just the paintings alone, but that isn't really what makes an exciting event. What makes the event super-exciting is that screen that goes from one 20-yard-line to the other, and is super high-definition. And that screen will be 30 feet above the ring," said Arum.

"So every replay, and every punch in the fight will be seen in really super, super vision on that screen. As pretty as the Dallas Cowboys' cheerleaders are, wait until you see them on that big screen," said Arum.

"When I saw the Cowboys-Eagles' game, sitting in Jerry Jones' box, I found myself watching the game on the big screen rather than watching the field just because that picture is so incredible," said Arum. "It's something really, really special. And until you see it, and until you're there, it is very, very difficult to describe the experience."


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